Selling them Short? Differences in News Coverage of Female and Male Candidate Qualifications

Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2023, Vol. 76(1) 308322
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129221086024
Selling them Short? Differences in News
Coverage of Female and Male Candidate
Nichole M. Bauer
and Tatum Taylor
We draw on research from gender stereotypes and mass communication to develop and test an innovative theoretical
framework of implicit and explicit gender framing. This framework delineates how and when coverage in newspapers will
report on female candidates differently than male candidates. Implicit gender frames subtly draw on masculine ste-
reotypes to reinforce patriarchal power structures through their coverage of poli tical candidates. Explicit gender frames
are the overtly sexist hair, hemlines, and husbandcoverage women receive more frequently relative to men. We argue
that the print news media will be more likely to rely on implicit gender frames to elucidate differences between women
and men running for political off‌ice. Using an exhaustive content analysis of Senate campaign news coverage, we f‌ind
important differences in the coverage of women and men running against one another. We also f‌ind the use of explicit
gender frames to be especially common in all-female races. These differences in coverage, especially in all-women
contests, can perpetuate stereotypic beliefs that women lack the qualif‌ications needed for political off‌ice among voters,
and stymie womens progress toward parity in representation.
female candidates, gender bias, campaigns, gender stereotypes, media bias, news coverage, political commun ication
In January 2019, Elizabeth Warren became the very f‌irst
person to declare her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic
presidential nomination. The day after Warren declared
her candidacy, Politico, an online news magazine, ran an
article declaring Warren to have a likeabilityproblem.
The only evidence presented of Warren having a like-
ability problem was that Warren was a woman. Elizabeth
Warren was just the f‌irst of what would become six
women, a record number, to pursue the presidency at one
time. Other women in the 2020 primary f‌ield generated
headlines about their choice in salad utensils; and still yet,
other candidates with strong qualif‌ications, such as Ka-
mala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, received little cov-
erage at all throughout the primary.
The extent to which news stories reinforce feminine
stereotypes that characterize women negatively is the
subject of considerable scholarly debate (van der Pas and
Aaldering 2020). One set of scholarship f‌inds that female
candidates receive more negative competency coverage
(Meeks 2012;Bligh et al. 2012), more coverage on their
personal qualities (Heldman, Carroll, and Olson 2005;
Conroy 2015a;Dunaway et al. 2013;Falk 2010;Burns,
Eberhardt, and Merolla 2013;Miller and Peake 2013;
Banwart, Bystrom, and Robertson 2003), and more game-
frame coverage relative to their male counter-parts
(Gidengil and Everitt 2003;Lawrence and Rose 2011;
Lawrence and Rose 2010). Another set of scholarship
argues that female and male candidates receive equitable
levels of coverage (Hayes and Lawless 2016). Current
scholarship offers little guidance about whether women
receive biased coverage and what that biased coverage
looks like (van der Pas and Aaldering 2020). We develop
and test a framework of implicit and explicit gender
Department of Political Science & Manship School of Mass
Communication, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Department of Political Science, Louisiana State University, Baton
Rouge, LA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Nichole M. Bauer, Department of Political Science & Manship School of
Mass Communication, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
70802, USA.

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